A pianist ( US: // pee-AN-ist, also // PEE-ə-nist) is an individual musician who plays the piano. Since most forms of Western music can make use of the piano, pianists have a wide repertoire and a wide variety of styles to choose from, among them traditional classical music, jazz, blues, and all sorts of popular music, including rock and roll. Most pianists can, to an extent, easily play other keyboard-related instruments such as the synthesizer, harpsichord, celesta, and the organ.
Modern classical pianists dedicate their careers to performing, recording, teaching, researching, and learning new works to expand their repertoire. They generally do not write or transcribe music as pianists did in the 19th century. Some classical pianists might specialize in accompaniment and chamber music, while others (though comparatively few) will perform as full-time soloists.
Mozart could be considered the first "concert pianist" as he performed widely on the piano. Composers Beethoven and Clementi from the classical era were also famed for their playing, as were, from the romantic era, Liszt, Brahms, Chopin, Mendelssohn, Rachmaninoff, and Schumann. It was during the Classical period that the piano begins to establish its place in the hearts and homes of everyday people. From that era, leading performers less known as composers were Clara Schumann and Hans von Bülow. However, as we do not have modern audio recordings of most of these pianists, we rely mainly on written commentary to give us an account of their technique and style.
Jazz pianists almost always perform with other musicians. Their playing is more free than that of classical pianists and they create an air of spontaneity in their performances. They generally do not write down their compositions; improvisation is a significant part of their work. Well known jazz pianists include Art Tatum, Duke Ellington, Thelonious Monk, Oscar Peterson and Bud Powell.
Popular pianists might work as live performers (concert, theatre, etc.), session musicians, arrangers most likely feel at home with synthesizers and other electronic keyboard instruments. Notable popular pianists include Victor Borge who performed as a comedian; Richard Clayderman, who is known for his covers of popular tunes; and singer and entertainer Liberace, who at the height of his fame, was one of the highest-paid entertainers in the world.
A single listing of pianists in all genres would be impractical, given the multitude of musicians noted for their performances on the instrument. Below are links to lists of well-known or influential pianists divided by genres:
Many important composers were also virtuoso pianists. The following is an incomplete list of such musicians.
Some people, having received a solid piano training in their youth, decide not to continue their musical careers but choose nonmusical ones. As a result, there are prominent communities of amateur pianists all over the world that play at quite a high level and give concerts not to earn money but just for the love of music.The International Piano Competition for Outstanding Amateurs, held annually in Paris, attracts about one thousand listeners each year and is broadcast on French radio.
It is notable that Jon Nakamatsu, the Gold Medal winner of the Van Cliburn International Piano Competition for professional pianists in Fort Worth, Texas (1997) was at the moment of his victory technically an amateur: he never attended a music conservatory or majored in music, and worked as a high school German teacher at the time; it was only after the competition that he started pursuing a career as a classical pianist.
The German pianist Davide Martello is known for traveling around conflict zones to play his moving piano. Martello has previously been recognised by the European parliament for his “outstanding contribution to European cooperation and the promotion of common values”.
Carl Czerny was an Austrian composer, teacher, and pianist of Czech origin whose music spanned the late Classical and early Romantic eras. His vast musical production amounted to over a thousand works and his books of studies for the piano are still widely used in piano teaching. He was one of Ludwig van Beethoven's best-known pupils.
Claudio Arrau León was a Chilean pianist known for his interpretations of a vast repertoire spanning the baroque to 20th-century composers, especially Bach, Beethoven, Schubert, Chopin, Schumann, Liszt and Brahms. He is widely considered one of the greatest pianists of the twentieth century.
A piano trio is a group of piano and two other instruments, usually a violin and a cello, or a piece of music written for such a group. It is one of the most common forms found in classical chamber music. The term can also refer to a group of musicians who regularly play this repertoire together; for a number of well-known piano trios, see below.
John Field, was an Irish pianist, composer, and teacher. Field is best known as the inventor of the nocturne, but there is evidence to suggest that this is a posthumous accolade. He is mentioned in passing in War and Peace when Countess Rostova calls on the Rostov household musician to play her favourite nocturne.
Johann Nepomuk Hummel was an Austrian composer and virtuoso pianist. His music reflects the transition from the Classical to the Romantic musical era.
A piano concerto is a type of concerto, a solo composition in the classical music genre which is composed for a piano player, which is typically accompanied by an orchestra or other large ensemble. Piano concertos are typically virtuoso showpieces which require an advanced level of technique on the instrument, including melodic lines interspersed with rapid scales, arpeggios, chords, complex contrapuntal parts and other challenging material. When piano concertos are performed by a professional concert pianist, a large grand piano is almost always used, as the grand piano has a fuller tone and more projection than an upright piano. Piano concertos are typically written out in music notation, including sheet music for the pianist, orchestra parts for the orchestra members, and a full score for the conductor, who leads the orchestra in the accompaniment of the soloist.
Benno Moiseiwitsch CBE was a Russian-born British pianist.
Shura Cherkassky was a Ukrainian-American concert pianist known for his performances of the romantic repertoire. His playing was characterized by a virtuoso technique and singing piano tone. For much of his later life, Cherkassky resided in London.
Ruth Laredo was an American classical pianist.
Sergio Fiorentino was a 20th-century Italian classical pianist whose sporadic performing career spanned five decades. There is quite a bit of footage his playing that survives, in addition to audio recordings. Recently, a complete concert recorded on video in 1994 has surfaced.
Viktoria Valentinovna Postnikova is a Russian pianist.
Peter Roy Katin was a British classical pianist and teacher.
Albert Ferber was a Swiss pianist who had an international performing career that spanned four decades and took him across the world.
Carol Rosenberger is a classical pianist. In 1976, Rosenberger was chosen to represent America's women concert artists by the President's National Commission on the Observance of International Women's Year. She has given performance workshops for young musicians on campuses nationwide. Rosenberger recorded over 30 albums on the Delos Productions, Inc. recording label. Rosenberger's memoir, To Play Again: A Memoir of Musical Survival was published in 2018 by She Writes Press.
Valentin Gheorghiu is a Romanian classical pianist and composer.
Marina Goglidze-Mdivani is a Soviet and Canadian virtuoso pianist of Georgian descent.
Barbara Nissman is an American pianist. She is especially known for her interpretations and performances of the works of Alberto Ginastera and Sergei Prokofiev which feature prominently in her repertoire. She is also a writer and a producer of a new DVD series, and a guest clinician presenting concerts, master classes and lectures world-wide.
Claude Kahn is a French classical pianist. Internationally renowned concert performer, known for his interpretations of Romantic music and more precisely the music of Chopin, but also of French music as soloist or accompanied by great orchestras in the world.
The Abegg Trio was a German piano trio. Since its foundation in 1976, it played in the original line-up.